Best Position to Take Blood Pressure

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Blood pressure is one of the key vital signs, so capturing it accurately is crucial.

There are a huge variety of factors that influence blood pressure, but having the patient in the proper position helps to ensure accuracy and consistency. Let’s review the best position to take blood pressure.

Does Position Affect Blood Pressure?

It’s worth asking if a person’s body position affects blood pressure at all, or whether it makes any difference. Over the years, many physicians and scientists have asked the same questions, and there have been studies to find out the answers.

Seated or Standing?

Blood pressure is typically taken with the patient in a seated position, but does sitting or standing make a difference? In fact, the answer is yes.

Studies show that blood pressure is lowest when standing, and highest when laying down. Because body position affects blood pressure, it’s important to follow standard practice and take blood pressure with the patient seated, for improved consistency over time.

Arm at Heart Level or at Rest?

Blood pressure is always recorded with the patient’s arm at heart level. However, it can be more convenient or relaxing to place the arm on the armrest of a chair.

Unfortunately, resting their arm on a chair significantly raises blood pressure reading, so the arm should always be at heart level.

Based on these and other studies in the field, we know that body position does affect blood pressure and it makes a difference in the readings.

Best Position to Take Blood Pressure

Other Factors That Affect Blood Pressure

Of course, blood pressure is affected by standard factors like the patient’s age, health, and fitness level. It’s also affected by the time of day, ambient temperature, the patient’s mood, and other factors that the clinician can’t necessarily control for, but here are some of the factors that you can control for, and how to address them before taking a blood pressure reading.

Exercise and Relaxation

Blood pressure should be taken when the body is at rest, and not right after exercise or stress. Allow the patient to sit quietly for 3-5 minutes in the exam room before taking their blood pressure.

Patient Discomfort

Discomfort or anxiety can elevate blood pressure. Always ask the patient if they need to use the bathroom before taking blood pressure. If they seem anxious or apprehensive, explain the procedure and help them feel at ease.

Alcohol or Caffeine

The patient should not have had alcohol or caffeine within 30 minutes before having their blood pressure taken.

Talking

The patient should not talk while their blood pressure is being taken. Not only does talking add an average of 10-15 point to your systolic pressure, but, when using a traditional sphygmomanometer, the clinician needs to use their ears to monitor the flow of blood.

Best Position for Taking Blood Pressure

Assuming that the patient has had some time to relax, and doesn’t need to use the restroom, the best position to take blood pressure is:

  1. Have the patient seated comfortably
  2. Give them 3-5 minutes to relax
  3. Make sure their feet are on the floor and their legs are not crossed
  4. Raise their arm above heart level
  5. Ask them to remain quiet
  6. Take their blood pressure

Not only is this the best way to get an accurate blood pressure reading, but, since it is practiced by health care professionals all over the world, it helps to create a consistent standard reading that provides meaningful information over time.

If everyone takes blood pressure in the same way, then different readings at different times are more likely to be indicative of a real change in the patient’s health, rather than variations in the health care provider’s techniques and habits.

While you can’t control all the factors in a person’s life that affect their blood pressure, and, for many people, simply being in a medical setting increases their blood pressure, it’s still important to get it right.

Following the standard practices, keeping the patient calm, and using the same position every time, helps to capture the most accurate blood pressure readings possible, and gain real insights into the patient’s cardiovascular health.

Blood pressure readings can be critical, and it’s important to be as accurate and consistent as possible to get the best data that you can.

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